Monday, January 2, 2012

The Worthless Ballad of Julianna Fryrear

I know it’s hard to imagine, but in my youth I was “socially awkward.” Back in elementary school, long before I emerged from my cocoon as this anti-social butterfly, worshipped by throngs of admirers, I was sort of clueless—invisible really. I wasn’t smart enough to be a geek, clumsy enough to be a spaz, dumb enough to be a loser, or cute enough to be a dork with potential. I was just a dork and like all dorks I had my share of character building challenges-- in third grade her name was Julianna.
Everyone has a nemesis like Julianna in their grammar school history—a sadistic little monster who, at nine years old, was swiftly whittling away at your lifetime supply of self esteem. In this case my last name alone was provocation for hours of delighted teasing. It wasn’t until third grade that I knew my last name, Ellsworth, could be so joyfully twisted into “Worthless.” Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I can still hear that taunt being repeated relentlessly; in a whisper, across a yard full of other children, in my dreams. (Don’t laugh. I was a sensitive child.)
I recall sitting at our kitchen table one evening, watching my mother cook, and somewhat dramatically expounding on my day of torture. Sobbing, I described the gleeful way she sing-songed my new nickname over and over, “Worth-less. Worth-less. Worth-less.”  My mother’s advice was practical. Tease her back. The thought had never really occurred to me on my own. I apparently lacked a certain gene which endowed a malicious quality inherent in most grade school girls.
I racked my brain, as I continued to snivel and whine about perfect Julianna, trying to think of something nasty to say about her and failing miserably. Her face was pretty. Her hair was cute. She was smart. The teacher liked her. I was stumped. 
“Well, what’s her name?” my mother asked.
 “Juuulieeeeannaaaa Fryyyyyrear” I wailed as a new burst of defeated tears streamed forth. 
To this day I can still see the look on my mother’s face as she turned toward me with disgust, spoon paused mid -stir, “And you can’t do anything with THAT? Fryrear? Really?” She said incredulously.
 I told you I wasn’t very smart back then. Of course, the nickname had caught on at that point, but I assure you Julianna never used it again, once I pointed out that street went both ways.
Now I could leave you there, with this as a cute little antidote about my childhood, but what good would that do?  Why would you care about my dumb little story? Where, you ask, is the life lesson?  What can be learned from "The Worthless Ballad of Julianna Fryrear?" (Why do I keep reading this blog?)
 Well, I suppose what I gained most, upon reflection so many years later, is the knowledge that sometimes, when we are in the midst of our deepest woes, we are so focused on the complexities of our emotions that we miss the possible, and often obvious, resolutions.  In times of trouble, it behooves us to step out of our hearts and get into our heads- detach and get analytical. No problem is without a solution, even the painful ones. We may have to let go of the bad feelings, ask someone else for help, or get creative-- but the answers are there, and finding them can go a long way toward healing the pain we feel in the moment.
Finally, on a side note, I’d like to say-- Julianna, should you ever come across this, you’re forgiven. No hard feelings. I’ve moved on (mostly) and in the end you taught me a valuable lesson I carried through into my adult life—It is better to be a bitch, than to be someone else’s bitch.

(No names were changed to protect the innocent due to lack of innocence and ensuing hilarity.)


Fay Jones said...

Awesome, Erin! The story was good, timing-excellent, and the punchline-epic! I just read this to Sydney as the PERFECT example of her very common school assignment...the personal narrative.

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